Most moms struggle with balance in some way or another, either between work and home or your husband and kids, maybe even between extended family versus personal interests. The desire to be everything to everyone is a totally natural, yet incredibly destructive trait of many women.
Once you add in the title of entrepreneur, that desire to keep things in running order only intensifies. But running a company and being the CEO of your family takes work, and most of that is internal. While I think I do a good job of running my own coaching business and caring for my family, I can tell you that during my recent conversation with the co-creator of Tend.ly, I took notes.
Caitlin Coffman, then a working mom of two, started her own company based upon a simple idea, that was really all about balance. When her kids, now 8 and 9 were younger, she felt that tug on her heart strings, when they were at daycare, wanting to be more actively involved in their days and longing to hear more than "fine" when she asked about their days as they got older. She also realized that care providers wanted a way to keep parents informed and track things like which food kids liked best, without having to keep everything on post it notes or other paper methods. So, in true entrepreneur fashion, she and her husband set out to create a platform that would allow for the engagement that both sides, providers and parents, would want. And Tend.ly was born.
Knowing that she couldn't be in two places at once, but that with some effort, she could be present and informed where ever she was, she invested her talents and time in creating this product which has the added benefit of giving daycare, and elder care providers useful information about the service that they provide. After a ton of research and some revisions, she took a leap of faith and left her full time job, to take her baby to the public.
And then she found out she was pregnant.
Even for someone who was good at balancing, this presented some new challenges to say the least. The thought of paying for child care for two children, prompted my stint as a stay at home mom years ago. Caitlin had a different plan and I think she handled all the challenges like a champ. Keeping her focus on the goal of balance, not perfection, she has been able to make some adjustments that have helped her keep the momentum of her company going as she welcomed her precious twins home earlier this year. Here are 4 lessons that I think we could all use.
Trust your team. Caitlin is quick to volunteer that she has an amazingly supportive husband, and unlike some of us(I may or may not be talking to you), she is not afraid to let him be amazing. None of that, I'm a superhero I can do everything by myself stuff. I learned this one the hard way after ending up quite sick one summer trying to be everything to everyone. My husband may not make the meal the way I want it, or the kids may be up later than I thing they should be while I'm at an event, but ultimately, done beats perfect any day and it doesn't have to be my way to be done. Beyond that, if I don't want to be known as the wife or mom who's always complaining about what's wrong, I have to let go of my need to control everything and let my team handle some things. Some of my moms are single and don't have the benefit of a partner to share the load. In that instance, I suggest using your village. Caitlin did that too. She was happy to let family members help during the first few months postpartum, which gave her time to keep the business moving. Grandparents, siblings, even supportive church or community members can ease the burden of trying to handle everything on your own.
Tame your Time. Many women want their own business in order to have better control of their schedules, but many soon find themselves working around the clock with no clear delineation between work and life that a traditional job allows. While Caitlin does have a flexible schedule, sometimes working from home and other times taking meetings or presenting at events, she's clear that setting a schedule and being consistent have been a big key to feeling sane and being productive since the birth of the twins. Caitlin and her husband chose to have a nanny, not only because of the convenience of not having to leave home with two babies in tow, but also because it allows her to be nearby and sneak in some baby time during the day. When she transitions from her work day to her around 4:30, as the nanny leaves for the evening, she's able to mentally move into family time as well. Working with, instead of against your time is a big key I see work for my clients.
Expect the unexpected. Any mom knows things will come up, while being your own boss does give you some flexibility, the truth is it also can make things a little trickier. Have you ever tried to host a webinar while you had a sick toddler? Yes, not fun. Caitlin figured that out herself, when two weeks after leaving her "job" to work full time on her business she found out that she was pregnant. Not entirely a surprise, finding out there were going to be two babies was definitely something that she had to adjust to. The best piece of advice she gave was a simple one, great for moms and business owners, "When someone offers help, take it!" I can't agree more. Prepping for things to go wrong and adjusting to the new flow is the best way to keep your sanity.
Know your strengths. This is so hard for many of us, since we are naturally driven and want to do most things on our own. Caitlin learned early on that some of the tasks in her business were best suited for others to do, which freed up time for her to use her strengths. Wasting time trying to be a superhero, will leave you tired, less productive and ultimately less present in the areas of your life you want to really invest your time. I worked with a business owner, Elizabeth White, of Loving Life with Liz, not too long ago and she marveled at how the ease of using a virtual assistant to take her simple opt in product and professionally branding it for release. She would have spent hours to create a much less visually appealing product, but by allowing the contractor to take over she freed up mental space for more pressing duties.
When we closed our conversation, I asked Caitlin about how she kept herself motivated while figuring out the best way to do what needed to be done and she offered that having faith in her product and the goal for her family helped her stay motivated and on track. Another little pearl of wisdom, It's much easier to keep things in balance with a healthy dose of perspective as well.
Are you starting your own business and looking for a space to share with women just like you? Check out the Start Up Mompreneurs on Facebook, we'd love to have you.